Reducing loneliness could help improve the physical health of college students in America, researchers have suggested.

The advice follows a study which found that students who reported feeling lonely also said they were not very active and had a sedentary lifestyle.

Researchers set out to look at the role of social interaction on obesity and physical inactivity among college students.

Sedentary behaviour (19.2%) and low activity (53.8%) were more common among students who reported a higher rate of feeling lonely. The team also found those same students also had diets higher in fat.

Researcher Li Jiang said: “Our study supports a potential need for further research in understanding unhealthful dietary behaviour and physical activity which may be related to loneliness, an emotion that impacts many college students.”

Jiang carried out the study as part of a master’s thesis, with contributions from Mason Nutrition and Food Studies Department Chair Lawrence J. Cheskin, Associate Professor Lilian de Jonge, former faculty member Cara Frankenfeld, and former postdoctoral fellow Ziaul H. Rana.

The team used data from the Mason: Health Starts Here cohort study.

Lawrence Cheskin said: “Interventions to reduce loneliness may have a positive effect on health promotion in this population. This data go along with other initial findings from the Health Starts Here study that college students are not meeting healthy dietary guidelines or getting enough physical activity.”

Read the full study in the Journal of American College Health.

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